“I woke up,” friend Susan said, “and smelled what I thought was some kind of putrid exotic coffee. But it was the dog. She’d been sprayed by a skunk.”
“There’s a fine line between coffee and skunk funk,” I said. “Yuppies have been known to pay five bucks a cup for coffee made from the droppings of the Javanese luwak, a creature that’s not unlike a skunk.”
“You’re making that up.”
“Nope. That’s hard science,” I said. “You can look it up. But tell me more about this skunk situation at your house.”
“Well,” Susan said, “before we could catch the dog and figure out what had happened, she had gone into every room of the house, and into some of the closets. Now everything in our house smells like skunkthe couch, the drapes, the carpet, the clothes. My hair smells like skunk. My purse smells like skunk.” She reached down, grabbed the purse from under her desk, and offered me a sniff. I declined. “Worst of all,” she continued, “it’s in the heat-and-air system. Every time the furnace comes on, it just stirs up the smell. Do you know how to get rid of skunk odor?”
“Nope,” I told her. “I’m still trying to figure out how to get the beer-and-cigarette smell out of my guitar case, which hasn’t been inside a bar since right after Elvis died.” Bar funk, like the King himself, seems to be immortal.
“I’m sure we’ll spend the whole weekend working on the problem,” Susan said. “So far, all I’ve got is this recipe for anti-skunk shampoo. Our vet gave it to me.” I took a look at the recipe.
1 quart 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon Joy dish soap
Mix ingredients together and bathe the animal in it. Rinse with tap water.
Below the directions, there was this: Warning! Do not mix this in advance. It will explode (not a combustible explosion). Do not put in or mix in a closed container. It must all be used, and not stored. Do not allow children to mix or use this.
“Yikes,” I said. “These folks are telling you to wash your dog in bomb juice!”
“Well,” Susan shrugged, “they said I could wash her in vanilla extract. But it would take a hundred dollars’ worth of vanilla extract to wash this dog.”
The thought of skunk-and-vanilla odor made me fight back a retch reflex. I say it’s better to live with a bad smell than to try to cover it up. I know what would happen if I washed a skunky dog in vanilla. The next time wife Brenda baked a pound cake, I’d flash back to the skunk episode, and taste a little skunk in every bite. I’d never enjoy pound cake again.
Smells are powerful memory-joggers. I know if I catch even a little whiff of Lysol, I’m instantly transported back to elementary school, to a day when some kid had a bad accident in the hall. If they’d just cleaned up the mess with soap and water, I would’ve forgotten the smell in a day or two. But no, they had to mix in the Lysol, and sear the wretched odor into my memory forever.
When I was in the fourth grade, I had a classmate, Jerry, who was cursed with really bad teeth. Our teacher gave him oil of cloves to kill his toothaches. To this day, if I smell cloves, I think bad teeth.
This smell-association thing plagues me even today. When our cats make a stinky mess, Brenda sprays a little pine-scented deodorizer into the air. When we go home to South Carolina and take a walk through the piney woods, I get this little voice in my head, Don’t feed the cats any leftover teriyaki chicken.
So, imagine my reaction when Susan told me that she’d gone to an industrial deodorant warehouse and bought a giant cherry-smelling deodorant cake. “We put it in the return air duct,” she said.
“Great goshamighty,” I said. “Your whole house is going to smell like the men’s room at the county fair.”
“What?” she said. “What does the deodorizer have to do with a men’s room?”
“You’ve bought the mother of all urinal cakes,” I said. “They come in pink, blue, and white. Pink smells like cherries. Blue and white smell sort of like Kool-Aid.”
Brenda overheard this. “Is that why you won’t drink Kool-Aid,” she asked.
“Or Hawaiian Punch,” I answered.
But back to the skunk problem. If you ever have skunk smell at your house, I recommend that you don’t mask the funk with anything that smells remotely like food. Here are a few anti-skunk recipes I ran across at the www.doityourself.com Web site:
1. Water with a little chlorine bleach, or a little vinegar (not both). Wash the affected surfaces with it.
2. “Skunk-off” aerosol, available from vets and pet shops.
3. “Nil-Odor,” from Dow Chemical. (You dilute it in water, and you can spray it on your furnace filter to get whole-house relief.)
4. Rexall “C-D Deodorant” aerosol.
5. Powdered Masengill douche. Mix 1/4 bottle with a gallon of warm water. Wash affected animals with it. (I’m not making this up.)
Visit Walter’s Web site at http://www.nashscene.com/~housesense, or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.